When I stepped into the grocery store and saw a ring of tortilla chips, jarred salsa, and suspect cheese product framing an altar of chicken wings, I pulled out my phone to message a friend and check. Yes, he said, the Super Bowl is on its way.
There was a time when a pit might have formed in my stomach at this news. I don't follow football. Commercials are commercials. And if I'm going to put up a fight to eat a food, it's going to be a lobster — not a chicken wing.
But it's un-American to avoid the Super Bowl, or at least just weird. So I'd join in. I'd go to a party where the TV blared the game. I'd juggle a bowl of chili and a drink, scanning around for a chair I'd never find, hoping no one asked which is "my team." I'd stare perplexed at the gambling board, a grid of meaningless squares filled with scrawled initials.
But now I don't dread the big game. In fact, I look forward to it. Not because I'm a football convert; it's just the opposite. I don't celebrate the Super Bowl.
My non-observance has become my personal holiday. I'm something of a rare case. A Vox survey from this week estimates that two out of three Americans will tune in this weekend. I can't speak for what the other one in three of us is up to (working the Sunday shift?), but for me, the details of my ritual vary from year to year. The theme is always the same, though: I'm not having fun in spite of being alone. I'm having fun because I am alone.
It is the one Sunday a year I'm free to enjoy all the trappings of Washington without the bros, crowds, lines, and parking fiascos I'd otherwise encounter in the precious final hours of the weekend. For me, Super Bowl Sunday isn't quite a three-day weekend, but it's more than the extra hour that comes with the return to standard time. It's a magical evening where I've tricked the laws of time to my advantage.
Over the years, I've experimented with the ritual. Here are a few of my favorite non–Super Bowl Super Bowl Sunday traditions:
1) The gym
Super Bowl Sunday is hands down the best Sunday evening to go to the gym. On a normal Sunday evening, I would elbow my way through bros to get to the free weights. Not so tonight. These weights are all mine.
2) Trader Joe's
A typical Sunday evening in line at a Trader Joe's in the city is the story of Sisyphus. But on this night, it is magical. The aisles are clear. The lines are short. Your cart glides through the aisles. The checkout is a dream.
One year, I branched out further. I went on a movie date in Georgetown (which was a ghost town) with a rare fellow non-observant. We saw The Artist in an empty theater, free to point out how terrible it was without bothering anyone. Then we ate dinner in an empty Italian restaurant.
There are many more options if you get creative. I've started earlier this year, brainstorming where to go that I'd never dare on a weekend.
I might hit a private spinning class.
5) Union Market
Washington's Union Market is mostly a nightmare on a Sunday. The lines at the artisanal food stalls wind into each other, with out-of-towners delighted by the novelty. This year, I'm running in for my pickled vegetables and out without incident.
Maybe I'll stop at the Target in Columbia Heights for that spare item I need! (Do not try this the next week.)
7) Rose's Luxury
Dinner at Rose's Luxury requires getting in line at noon, hoping for a table. Maybe I'll stroll right in.
8) To bed
Super Bowl parties end late, full of snacks sure to be regretted Monday. Non–Super Bowl, by contrast, ends early. I will crawl into bed satisfied with my holiday and without knowing who won. (Not that I knew who was playing anyway.)
Laura McGann is Vox's politics editor.